American Theatre Companies, 1888-1930

By Weldon B. Durham | Go to book overview
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Published Sources:

Duluth Herald, 1922-23, 1927-28.

Duluth News-Tribune, 1922-23, 1927-28.

Superior Evening Telegram, 1922-23, 1927-28.

Archival Resources:

Duluth, Minnesota. St. Louis County Historical Society. Theatre file, Building file.


McMinn, Mrs. James ( Nela Gifford McMinn). Duluth, Minnesota, March 30, 1983.

Roger H. Schultz

[DONALD] ROBERTSON PLAYERS. Donald Robertson, the organizer and driving force behind the Donald Robertson Players was born and spent his early years in Scotland. After his family moved to America he attended schools in New York and eventually entered the theatre as an actor, serving in the companies of Lester Wallack, Kate Claxton, Dion Boucicault, and Steele MacKaye. He spent a period of years as an actor in England and returned to America, traveling to Chicago in 1904 as a member of a company headed by Mary Shaw presenting plays of Henrik Ibsen. When the troupe finished Ibsen Hedda Gabler, its offering to the Chicago audiences, the company left the city but Robertson remained behind. He had sensed the artistic enthusiasm and recognized the theatrical opportunities in the still young and growing city.

Robertson became the dramatic director of the Cosmopolitan School of Music and Dramatic Art, an organization supported by the Chicago Women's Club. He asked the Women"s Club, as a sponsoring agency, to develop a repertory company to begin operation in August 1906. Those plans never materialized as the sponsors seemed reluctant to underwrite what they felt was a high-risk venture. In the summer of 1907 Donald Robertson decided to sponsor the group himself and gathered a company which consisted largely of his students from the Cosmopolitan School of Music and Dramatic Art.

The company opened its regular season on September 3, 1907, at Ravinia, a charming and popular little park north of Chicago. The first week consisted of four matinees and three evening performances of Molière The Miser and Ibsen The Trium ph of Youth and Rosmersholm. They were well supported and enthusiastically received by Ravinia audiences. W. L. Hubbard, drama critic of the Chicago Tribune reported, "The performances are not 'great' in the sense that any of the roles are played with exceptional brilliancy, but they are of an uncommon general evenness and balance" ( Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1907, sec. 1, p. 1). Hubbard also suggested that, compared with the Ben Greet Players,* which had also appeared at Ravinia, the Robertson offerings were "masterly." The company continued, even increasing the regularity of its performances, through the final week of its contract at Ravinia when it played nightly from October I through October 5.


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American Theatre Companies, 1888-1930
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